820 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 78 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2020
As Dr. Bonnie Henry tells us, if you are sick, you must stay home. As most
parents know, small children regularly suffer from a runny nose from October
At present, I depend on daycare facilities to provide childcare. To access
each facility, my children may need to submit to a temperature check to
ensure they do not have a fever, and a parent must sign a declaration that
no one in the child’s family is exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19. As
cold and flu season approaches, many parents will be left without care as
their children come down with common seasonal illnesses. It is not difficult
to imagine a situation in which, on the day of a hearing, I go to drop off my
children at daycare, only to be told that they have a fever or a runny nose.
My only options then are to self-isolate for 14 days with my children or to
immediately contact BC Children’s Hospital for a COVID-19 test, and then
self-isolate while we await a result. And while we wait for the results, I cannot
attend court and risk jeopardizing the health and safety of all of those
in the courthouse. Nor can I attend my office or any (quiet) location other
than my home to attend hearings virtually. My children will not be permitted
to return to daycare until 14 days have elapsed or they have a negative
test result and are symptom-free. There is no possibility for parents to find
alternative care for a child exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
To do so would put potential caregivers at risk.
Jamie Maclaren, Q.C., a bencher, has suggested operating a drop-in daycare
for court users within the courthouse.6 But such a plan would take time,
effort and political will. And no daycare, drop-in or not, will accommodate
sick children in the present pandemic. Our court system is already plagued
by under-funding for technological and other improvements needed to function.
A childcare centre within the courthouse seems far too much to reasonably
wish for at this stage. So, what can parents reasonably expect?
A greater capacity for telephone and video conferencing should form
part of any solution. Sitting for shorter or non-consecutive days to accommodate
childcare obligations should be considered. The courts also need to
figure out a way to accommodate last-minute—and potentially mid-trial—
adjournments. These accommodations need to include plans to prioritize
rebooking these hearings, or move them immediately to telephone or
videoconferencing. These accommodations will assist not only parents, but
also other lawyers, witnesses and court users who themselves might come
down with a cold.
To assist the court in making use of the available court hearing days, it
might be possible to encourage more counsel to book matters on the assize
system in places where it is only optional and not frequently used (e.g.,